Take for instance oneof my all time favorites, the affair between Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. What is it that made their romance so amazing? Was it that they were both married at the time? Was it their celebrity? Was it that their affair played a part in the casting of one of the most popular movies of all time? Was it that this love took them to the depths of mental illness and back?
The two met when Olivier congratulated her on her performance after seeing her in The Mask of Virtue. The two began an affair, while married to other people, during the filming Fire Over England together. When Olivier came to Los Angeles, Vivien came with him, not just for support, but because she had set her sights on the most sought after role in Hollywood: Scarlet O'Hara.
Once filming wrapped she did return to Olivier and the two were married in 1940. In 1941, the pair portrayed another great affair in That Hamilton Woman where Olivier played Lord Nelson and Vivien played Lady Emma Hamilton. The parralls between the two couples were obvious and their fame only increased when they returned to England.
In 1945 she discovered she was pregnant while filming Caesar and Cleopatra, but suffered a miscarriage that drove her into a deep depression. It was during this low point that she turned on Olivier, assaulting him physically and verbally until she would collapse on the floor sobbing. It was the first of many breakdowns that she would suffer, but Olivier remained by her side.
In 1947, Olivier was knightted and the pair became Lord and Lady Olivier and in 1948 he was on the board of the Old Vic. The pair embarked on a six month tour of Australia and New Zealand to raise funds for the theatre, but it was during this trip that Vivien suffered from insomnia and violent mood shifts. Olivier claimed that he "lost Vivien" in Australia.
Though proud of her work, Leigh would say playing Blanche DuBois "tipped me over into madness." She won her second Best Actress award, but the damage was done.
Leigh appeared in a few more plays and films, but a second miscarriage pushed her into a depression that lasted for months. Her breakdowns became mmore frequent and Olivier did his best to hide her condition from those around them.
Olivier discussed the years of problems they had experienced because of Leigh's illness: "Throughout her possession by that uncannily evil monster, manic depression, with its deadly ever-tightening spirals, she retained her own individual canniness – an ability to disguise her true mental condition from almost all except me, for whom she could hardly be expected to take the trouble."
The two divorced in 1960. It was the end.
She was quoted as confiding that she "would rather have lived a short life with Larry [Olivier] than face a long one without him". (Per Wikipedia)
Vivien passed away on the night of July 7, 1967 due to complications of a reccurance of Tuberculosis. Olivier was notified and came to her home where he prayed over her body "for forgiveness for all the evils that had sprung up between us".
She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at Tickerage Mill, near Blackboys, Sussex, England.
So that was end of the love affair that madness